The Act of Forgiveness

sad dog…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Matthew 6:12 (NLT)

Oh, Jesus. He makes it sound so simple, doesn’t He? “Don’t worry.”  “Forgive others.”

Forgiveness is a touchy subject. It’s one which makes me bristle. If I can’t forgive someone, there is a good reason.   In the past, I’ve dismissed God from the equation with the attitude that He can’t possibly understand the wrong that was perpetrated against me. Sometimes, I deserve to make the other person squirm.

Wow. There’s a lot of stuff in that paragraph. As people, it’s easy to hold a grudge and be unforgiving. Does the last sentence make you a bit uneasy? I felt weird typing it—but I’ve done it before.

Is that the handle that makes it easy to hold a grudge—the feeling that someone else needs to pay for the offense?  Is part of the problem with forgiveness the fact you are reading Matthew 6:12 by itself?

The Act of Forgiveness

Look back to Jesus’ earlier words as in heaven, so on the earth then look ahead to the verses just after the, “Amen.” This is the paraphrase from The Message.

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.

You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others.

If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:14-15 (MSG)

God wants His children to fulfill their destiny and act like Him–Christ is the living example. That action is not an emotion. It is an act of will. Forgiveness is just that –an act of will—not an emotion or feeling. It is the act of will Jesus demonstrated when He prayed for God to spare Him the agony of the cross. That agony paid the price of redemption.   Jesus didn’t feel like dying on the cross—His heart was filled with dread. In willful obedience, Jesus died to offer sinful humanity forgiveness and redemption. You and I don’t deserve forgiveness. You and I deserve punishment.   With grace and mercy, God offers forgiveness to anyone who asks because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus teaches His followers to act heavenly while here on earth.

What does it mean to say forgiveness is an act of will? It means:

  • One doesn’t have to have warm fuzzy feelings before he’s able to forgive someone who has wronged him.
  • The situation or circumstances of life may remain permanently altered. Sin changes things. Sometimes sin changes things so much the situation can’t go back to like it was. That doesn’t mean there is no forgiveness. There are many examples of lives changed by sin but redeemed by forgiveness throughout the Bible.
  • Choosing to forgive is the same choice God makes toward humanity. God forgives when there is no reason for Him to forgive. He cancels the debt of sin and doesn’t require the sin-sick soul to bear that burden. He acts mercifully in His choice to forgive. Then He looks at His creation and commands, Be like Me—forgive.

It’s a difficult subject. Every time I intentionally think of it, I wonder if I can do it. I wonder if I’ve done it. Forgiveness is such an emotionally charged subject it’s easy to wrestle with the subject and never get around to the action.

Jesus teaches His followers—believers—to bring their sin to God for forgiveness. Then Jesus teaches the believer to extend that grace and mercy to others as he or she lives out God’s heavenly kingdom here on earth.

Forgive.

Father, thank You for Your gracious forgiveness, so undeserved but so glorious and free. Help me imitate You in my willingness to forgive. Help me extend mercy and grace to those who wrong me. Teach me to be like You.

 

Image courtesy of Bing.com/Images

Heavenly Bread

bread

Give us today our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11 (NIV)

When I was a child, I thought baking bread was a huge endeavor and I vowed I would never make bread when I got big. My mom would spend what seemed like all day baking bread, rolls and cinnamon rolls. Mom had a huge mixing bowl for the dough. I remember her kneading huge batches of dough. During the day, pans of rising dough filled every available spot in the kitchen. My brothers and I would wait at the oven door for the hot, fresh-baked goodies to come out of the oven. It was an all day project. My brothers and I gobbled up her work without really appreciating the work mom put into those tasty morsels.

As I got older, I realized mom made such big batches of bread because she was feeding a small army of boys. I broke my vow and made bread—but it’s never been as good as mom’s.

I love bread!

I’m glad Jesus said, “Man cannot live by bread alone…” because I like all kinds of food—including bread. Today, in Jesus’ lesson on prayer the instruction is to ask for bread. Since bread is an obvious reference to food and bread alone isn’t enough to live on, let’s extend that to mean what one needs to live.

Jesus offers a very interesting perspective on how the believer is to live with one sentence. Let’s be honest with each other for a minute—today is not too much of a problem for most of you. I woke up this morning with a list of things to do. It’s 10:24 AM and I’m about one-third of the way through the list. There are those things that slop over from one day to the next—ongoing projects, the daily activities of living—you know—those things. If we are truly honest with each other, on a regular day—we think we have today in hand.

Until…

Until that phone call comes with its devastating news. Until your boss calls you into his or her office and tells you you’re no longer needed. Until you feel that lump that wasn’t there yesterday. Until your spouse doesn’t come home one evening.

Until… That’s when your need surpasses your ability to make your own bread.

The Need

We have a daily need. Sure, we will need things tomorrow, next week, next month and next year—but before that—we need bread daily. The truth is, on any given day, none of us really knows how much we’ll need—no one except our Father in Heaven.

He is happy to give us what we need for each day.

Jesus teaches to ask daily. After all, how can one trust God to provide for the future, if he or she is unsure of God’s provision for today?

People have short memories and a super-need to be independent. If God gave you bread for next week—by the time you needed it next week you would probably think it was your bread—made by your hands, your efforts, and your skills.

Come on, I know I’m not the only one who thinks I’m a “baker” now and then!

God The Supreme Baker

Without daily bread you and I would take the credit that belongs to our hallowed Heavenly Father alone—or the opposite would be true—we would find ourselves wondering why God abandoned us to make our own bread during the tough times of hardship.

God is a God of today. He is not shocked by your past. He is not worried about your future. He IS interested in your daily life. He so wants to be a part of your daily life, that in His infinite goodness and grace, He offers untold blessing to those who come—daily.

Father, give me what I need today. Open my eyes to see Your goodness and grace for me today. Teach me the benefit of coming to You daily for my every need, for Your blessing, and for Your glory.

Images courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

God’s Will Right Now

not like the othersYour kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (NIV)

One of these things is not like the other… If you grew up watching Sesame Street, you can finish that song. For those of you who didn’t, it’s a simple song to teach children about similarities and differences.

People seem to have little problem seeing the differences between objects, people and places. On earth as it is in heaven; that seems very different. In my mind, heaven and earth are very different. What was Jesus praying? What was His intention for us?

God’s kingdom, His will, here on earth just like heaven—that’s bold! That seems so bold it could be unobtainable. If that is what you think, than Jesus, the teacher, is mocking us with His very lesson.

How different is earth from heaven?

If I ponder it, I come to realize God created heaven and earth. Each has a separate purpose, but Genesis tells us God spent time in both places. I don’t want to debate the how’s and whys; I simply want you to consider how difficult it is to disguise your own handwriting, or how hard it is to change your voice. The mark of YOU is all over the things you do. God created you and me in His image. God created both heaven and earth.

If you’ve ever watched someone die, you understand heaven and earth are only separated by one breath.

Do heaven and earth seem a bit more similar now?

What God Wants v. What I Want

Jesus in His lesson on prayer tells His followers to pray God’s kingdom come and His will be done here, as in heaven. As I think, Wow! The earth couldn’t be farther from being like heaven than it is now –I realize I’m guilty of the same mindset the first disciples held. The disciples that Jesus walked with, the ones who wanted to learn to pray, were waiting for someone to change the world they knew. They wanted a Messiah or someone to rid them of the tyrannical rule of the Roman Empire –not so much someone who would change their hearts.

Ugh! God wants His kingdom and will to be in ME!?

I’m an all-or-nothing sort of person. I’m either in over my head or completely disinterested. Keeping heaven and earth two places, makes it easier for me to hope for someday when things will be better and to simply tolerate the now that is not so great.

That’s not Jesus’ lesson.

The believer is God’s home here on earth. His kingdom has come—to dwell in each believer. The believer is the doer of God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. See what I mean—this is a bold prayer. You and I as believers are the keepers of God’s kingdom until the day when Jesus finally comes to reign physically on the earth. You and I, as believers, are the doers of God’s will—on earth as it is in heaven.

If you aren’t sure what God’s will is—this lesson on prayer follows Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—His kingdom’s agenda.

The God who is your Heavenly Father, who is Holy, whose name is worthy of diligent guarding; places His kingdom here on earth is the most unlikely of places—clay pots—for His divine purpose and glory—as it is in heaven.

Father, thank You for putting Your kingdom in me—a fragile clay pot. Help me live out Your will here on earth as it is in heaven. Remind me, that no matter how evil this world seems, You are King over all. Help me declare your holiness, glory and majesty today.

Images courtesy of Bing.com/images

Mom’s Scissors

scissors

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Matthew 6:9b (NIV)

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9b (NLT)

 

“RACHEL! Did you use my good scissors?” It wasn’t only the tone of my mom’s voice that let me know I was in trouble. Any time I heard “RACHEL!” I knew I was in trouble.

My mom made most of my clothes. She was quite the seamstress. She rarely used a pattern. Mom possessed the ability to look at a completed piece of clothing—in the store or on someone else’s body— and then make it. Mom blessed me with all sorts of outfits made from unique material. It wasn’t just my outfits—from the scraps, mom made matching outfits for my dolls.

She had a special pair of scissors—scissors that were for cutting cloth—ONLY cloth. If someone in the family used those special scissors to cut paper—mom always knew.

Those scissors were “holy.” Those scissors had a certain and special purpose—they were sharp—and mom swore cutting paper dulled those sharp blades so those scissors were set apart for a special purpose.

As Jesus taught His followers to pray, He added a special term to His Father’s name—hallowed. The term hallowed isn’t used much anymore. It’s most common use is to refer to the “Hallowed halls” of a grand, old institution. That use may cause you to think hallowed means archaic.

If hallowed doesn’t mean old, what does it mean? A close definition is holy—and I’m not sure that helps us understand—unless one investigates that word.

God is Different

The disciples who listened to Jesus’ teaching had no problem understanding the words Jesus used. The Temple was arranged in a way that a person coming to God, understood—God is holy.   If the one coming didn’t get that understanding from the structure of the Temple, the Pharisees, with all their religious rigmarole would set you straight.

Hallowed. Holy. Set-apart. Different.  My mom’s scissors were set-apart for a special purpose but it’s not technically holy.

God is holy—God is not like the humans He created.

It’s no mistake that Jesus’ first instructions for prayer were:

  • You can come to God as a child comes to a loving father.
  • God is holy.

It seems Jesus is offering a confusing situation. A loving father that is different—superficially, that does seem odd.

The Holy Father

To the disciples listening to Jesus, God was a far off entity to be reckoned with. The notion that God is a loving Father had probably not entered their minds. If you view God as only a daddy, your relationship with Him will be out of balance and unhealthy. You’ll catch yourself wondering why your daddy-god didn’t bail you out when you were in trouble, why you can’t get ahead, find THE spouse, THE job, or have THE perfect life.

While God is a loving father, He is also holy.

God is not a man—remember that when you come to Him in prayer. God is special, set-apart, different—HOLY. He is not to be taken lightly. He has a distinct character—one that never changes. In the Jewish tradition, the names of God reflected His character traits. The call for His name to remain hallowed, or honored, was a call to recognize that God is different. Those who claim His name carry the obligation to honor God’s character by living a life of honor.

God’s holiness is all about HIM. When you come to God in prayer, you come to a God who loves you but who will not compromise His holiness to bend to your agenda. God is special, set-apart, different—HOLY. As a child coming to a loving Father, it’s your duty to guard your Father’s good name—to uphold and live out His character.

Father, as I live out my life remind me I can come to You anytime for anything. Also, remind me that as one who calls You Lord, I must live in a way to bring You the honor Your Holy name deserves. Give me the strength to bring honor to You today.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

Starting at the Right Place

prayer 3After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.   Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.  Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

Teach us To Pray

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9b (NLT)

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 6:9 (KJV)

I personally don’t  know anyone who can’t recite the Lord’s Prayer. I know those people exist—I just don’t know them.

Let me clarify that.

When I say, know the Lord ’s Prayer, I mean just about everyone can boldly begin, “OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN,” the volume significantly dips during Hallowed be they name.  There is some mumbling until the words, “As it is in heaven.”   Some fumbling over the part about bread follows that. The recitation becomes scary with the next phrase—is it sins and sin, debts and debtors, or trespasses and trespass? That line of the prayer often sounds like, “And forgive us our sssssssses and we forgive those who ssssssss against us.” The hissing line about forgiveness leads to the realization the “Amen” is close. Once the word temptation is uttered and the plea to “deliver us from evil.” is said, the boldness to end strong wells up and by the time the word glory is uttered, the “FOREVER, AMEN!” is strong.

That’s what I mean when I say everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus didn’t intend these words to be the only prayer of His followers. In response, to the plea from the fishermen, tax collector and the regular non-religious types following Jesus, Jesus told them to pray simply: like this.

Begin at the Proper Place

The act of praying is the act of communicating with someone who cares about you. Jesus taught His followers to direct their prayers to Our Father. Don’t let the image of your flawed earthly father keep you from your loving, gracious, merciful, and just Heavenly Father.   In this sin-tainted world, your earthly father may have abandoned you, or worse, abused you. Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you to cry out His name—to bring your hurts, desires, fears, failures, praise, and success to Him so He can offer you what you really need.

The first concept Jesus taught His disciples about prayer was; prayer a conversation with someone who loves and cares for you. God’s not in the practice of giving you snakes and stones—He loves YOU!

YOUR Heavenly Father

God is your Heavenly Father. He’s not just your Father—He’s Heavenly! “Heavenly” is an adjective tossed around in the vernacular. I’ve shivered with delight over a heavenly piece of cake. I’ve snuggled in a heavenly sweater. I’ve listened with joy and goose bumps as musicians performed a heavenly piece of music.

That is the primary concept of prayer. What makes something heavenly? Heavenly things are better, luscious, astounding—different. Your Father in heaven is—HEAVENLY! Not only does He care about YOU, He has the power to see it though. He is better, luscious, astounding and different from anyone you know here on earth!

The best part is—He loves YOU!

Consider that as you pray today. You are praying to the One who made all things—from nothing, I might add. God knows you intimately. He desires that you come to Him in the innocence and need of child so that He can commune with you, meet your need and restore you to what you were meant to be—His friend.

Father, I have a difficult time expressing with words what it means to be Your child. Teach me to come to for all that I need but also simply to be Your child.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

It’s All Small Stuff

small stuff

 

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6: 25-34 (MSG)

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a worrier. I’m not as bad as I used to be—I’ve learned that I can trust God’s promises in spite of what I see. Still, I find myself overly concerned, anxious for situations to go well, and unsure of the future. Don’t those euphuisms sound better and more productive than “worried?”

I’ve been WORRIED the past couple of months. I’ve started a new job. The hours are different. Although I’m still a nurse, the job is very different. I’ve been off-balance and out of my element. Add to those things, physically sick.  It’s safe for you to conclude, I’m a mess!

What I’ve noticed is worry is fluid. I can’t just worry about my job. As I worry about my job I find myself worrying about other parts of my life. Once worry begins the trickle quickly becomes a flood.

As I read Jesus’ words about worry, I begin to worry more. HOW CAN I NOT WORRY? Simply saying, “Don’t worry.” is like saying, “Don’t look to your left.” (Did you just look to your left?) Sometimes as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I picture the “hippy” Jesus—you know the one who wears Birkenstocks and “hangs out” with His friends saying all sorts of heavy truth in a glib, almost lyrical fashion. I read the Sermon on the Mount as a string of nice thoughts and good ideas. Then I catch myself—Jesus was serious—when He said, “Don’t worry.” He meant it!

Jesus specifically mentions three things we are not to worry about—food, clothes and life. Although I read the Don’t Worry part I tend to gloss over the Whys of not worrying. Maybe you do too. Perhaps the worry of worrying blinds us to the truth Jesus is trying to reveal.

Don’t worry about food

That’s easy for me to say with my enormous BMI and my pantry full of food. If you are hungry, certainly that command sounds different to you. Jesus tells His listeners not to worry about food and then directs our attention to the birds. Birds don’t worry about planting and gathering food. I like how The Message paraphrases the reason, the birds are “careless in the care of God.”

Is a bird worth more to God than you are? Most birds aren’t special—birds are common—pigeons, sparrows, robins, crows, starlings—there is nothing special about those birds. Most birds are common, ordinary and worthless. I’ll go so far as to say, birds are dirty.  Still God feeds them.

What is my worth to God? Is that the real question? Do I think I rank lower on the list? Am I convinced that I matter more than the common robins digging worms out of the grass?

Is that the source of my worry?

Jesus states plainly—YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THE BIRDS.

More than Clothes

Being a nurse, I’ve seen many naked bodies. Having a full-length mirror, I see one particular body every day and let me say— I’m glad I live in a culture that wears clothes.

Jesus’ words about clothes speak to a fact I often overlook as I live out my day. The paraphrase uses dramatic language and draws a distinct difference between the common birds and the beautiful flowers. Flowers are beautiful, detailed and distinct—they also don’t last for much more than a week. Most of my plant’s beautiful blossoms last only a day or two. Jesus offers a detail I never considered—most of the beautiful flowers go unseen, unappreciated—still God puts His glorious design on display.  I think my life is substantial.  I rarely think of my life as temporary.

Jesus asks again—If God does all that for what seems like no reason at all, don’t you think He’ll take care of You? Aren’t you worth more than flowers that die in a day?

How can Jesus simply say, “Don’t worry”?

Using worthless birds and one-day flowers, Jesus sums it up—YOU ARE WORTH MORE than your temporal body. Death is the end of this worrisome life. You and I have the same destiny—we don’t know when or how—but this life, this body that SCREAMS for our attention is temporary.

Jesus says, don’t worry about it—give your attention to God.

What does matter?

Knowing God and understanding how He works—you might be more familiar with this translation, Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  That is Jesus’ command. That is the investment of the believer—laying up treasure in Heaven.

So, I have to ask myself

  • Is my worry the result of me trying to fold or stretch God into some shape that will fit into my life, and not seeking to know and understand how He works in the uncomfortable places of my “hunger” and my “nakedness”?
  • Is my worry the result of  distrust of my heavenly Father’s love for me?
  • Does my concern with the temporal draw me away from the eternal, leaving me alone with only myself to meet my needs?

Jesus’ solution to worry is to take the consuming and at the same time, dissipating energy of worry, and put it toward knowing the heavenly Father who loves and values you and me. Jesus’ solution is focusing on the eternal so the things that are temporary won’t distract us—and Jesus reminds us that all the things we worry about are temporary—regardless of how necessary they seem.

Father, as I go through my day doing the things that are necessary, remind me—I matter to You. Give me Your perspective on the things I would worry about. When I begin to worry I will turn my attention to You, your character and Your promises. Change my worrying heart to a heart filled with devotion and trust. Keep me secure in your grace.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

Choose Wisely

choose wisely

“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.” Matthew 6:24 (MSG)

Matthew 6:24-34

As I shared yesterday, I spent a lot of time in the car during the past weekend. Those of you who are not Sci-fi or adventure movie fans bear with me—and then find the time to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  You can watch Phantom Menace as well– but I would recommend The Empire Strikes Back.

As Indiana Jones finds the Holy Grail, the knight guarding the Grail tells Indy that he must, “choose, but choose wisely.” Drinking from the counterfeit Grail would bring death just as certain as the real Grail would give eternal life. Indy makes a life and death choice. Choose wisely is good advice.

Choose wisely, indeed.

That was Jesus’ command in this part of the Sermon on the Mount. Right after Jesus’ command to store up heavenly treasure He addresses the choice each of us must make.

Do you love money? Of course not! How shallow and petty. I often say as I’m paying bills or I find myself fretting over the news reports of the stock market or watching an elderly patient in what should be their “golden years” struggle in poverty, “I hate money!”

I don’t really hate money. I think that feeling is what Jesus was talking about. Money makes a poor master. It’s not the money itself it’s the progression that money sets in motion. Yoda was straightforward with Luke when he said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

What is money if it’s not fear?

When I was a poor college student I was afraid I would always live on five dollars a month. After that, I was afraid the hospital would garnish my wages over Ron’s gargantuan medical bills. Now that I live a comfortable life, I fear that I’ll lose my job or lose my ability to work.  I often think, what’s going to happen when I want to retire? Will I find myself once again collecting pop cans to cash in for the refund? Will Terry and I end up living in a box under the bridge as he so often laments when he thinks I spent too much money?

Money is fear. That fear does lead to anger—at least a distracting unrest of the soul. An unsettled soul is a suffering soul.

Yesterday I wrote about the intangible things we spent our cash on over the past weekend and how that made me think of the intangible treasure in heaven.  After Jesus talks about true treasure, the next point Jesus makes in sermon is money makes a poor master.   Jesus doesn’t speak the statement it outright—but you know it in your heart—money is a poor master because money is limited. If money wasn’t finite—you and I and every other millionaire would be able to say, “I have enough.”

There is never enough money because once you spend it, you need more. If don’t spend it but keep it, you find the changing economy diminishes its value and ultimately it’s never enough.

Money is a cruel master—since it never satisfies.

Jesus gave two choices—serve money or serve God. In the verses following His bold statement, Jesus offers the reason to “choose wisely” when you and decide who to serve.

It boils down to this; do you want to serve a master that can only offer lack, disquiet and longing or do you want to serve a Master who offers abundance, peace and fulfillment?

God offers a fullness that surpasses any amount of financial security one has here on earth. Since God is a God of abundance, he always has enough—no matter how much you need. God’s call is stop worrying, fretting, fussing—He knows—He has—He wants to give you what’s best.

I hope you take a moment to read the paraphrase of this passage from The Message . Jesus pleads with you and me—choose wisely—God is a good master!

Exchange disquiet in your soul for peace that comes from love. Exchange the distraction of MORE for the rest that comes from contentment. Exchange the distrust of a finite master for one whose grace is infinite.

You MUST choose…choose wisely

Father, when the distraction of money and things tries to draw my attention away from the peace only YOU can offer, help me run to You. When I begin to fret over the things I don’t have remind me that my treasure is with You and You know what I need. Help me to rest in Your love, grace and provision for me. Calm my restless spirit—teach me to trust Your love.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

The Treasure Chest

treasure1

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be…” Matthew 6:19-21(NLT)

If you wondered where I’ve been, Terry and I took a long weekend road trip to see one of our favorite bands. Although I know many words, let me sum up the concert the way Terry did as we left the arena, “WOW!” I think he repeated that single word about ten times on our way back to the car. The concert was extraordinary. It was fun!

The entire weekend was enjoyable. We had a nice five-hour dive—the countryside is lush and green this time of year. The hotel was nice—nothing too fancy—just comfortable. The food was good. Exploring the city was fun. We had a delightful five-hour return trip home. Our Ozzy was safe in the loving home of friends. The only way to improve the weekend—a back stage pass.

As Terry is wont to do, on the drive back home he began to tally up the expenses of the weekend. He chirped off expenses and after each one he mentioned I added, “…but it was worth it!” Finally, he got to the end and blurted out the grand total.   That seemed more substantial. It was still worth it. It was at that moment I realized all the money was spent on intangible things. All the money we spent—we spent on things we didn’t posses in any real form just grand memories of sights, sounds and tastes.

I will still say, for as long as I can remember it, it was worth it!

A long drive in the car provides me the best thinking time. Store up your treasure in heaven—that’s a difficult command. As frustrating as storing up my tangible treasure can be, I often put most of my effort into squirreling away that kind of treasure. I work hard to be a good employee. I try to be a good wife. I put a lot of effort into achieving a place on the honor roll while I was in school. I’d like more money in my bank account, so I pick up extra hours and side jobs. I have special places for treasured gifts. I work hard to have a pretty garden.

If I stand back in a quiet moment, I realize my employer deems me replaceable. There are always dishes in the sink. As I sit with messed up hair and a rumpled robe, I think Terry could have done better. No one wants to hear about my good grades or my honor society awards thirty years later. There is never enough money in the bank—no matter how hard or how much I work. My special treasures tarnish and break. No matter how many weeds I pull, the flowerbeds are never “finished.”

What about Jesus’ command?

It’s stuck in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. This command is sandwiched between Jesus’ words about prayer and fasting and not judging others. Curious, isn’t it? Stuck between Our Father Who art in Heaven and if you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge is the command to decide what’s important—heavenly things or earthly things.

Is what I do in my daily life important? Absolutely.

Is this life the only treasure I have? I hope not.

Jesus offers the heavenly treasure in Matthew 6:33. I like the paraphrase of this all too familiar verse in The Message:

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.

Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

 

No matter how hard I try—no matter the degree of my success or failure here on earth—it’s about God’s kingdom. That’s the successful focus. That’s where the intangible becomes tangible. That’s where my life’s meaning lies.

Seek first His kingdom.

Father, it’s usually when I’m tired that I realize I put a he amount of effort into many things that don’t matter. Lead my heart to the treasure—the treasure that I can only find in Your plan for my life. Help me put my efforts into your plan and not my own. Thank You for guiding me. Thank You for Your provision.

 

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

Be Free

be free

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 (NLT)

“Come here little doggie!” our precocious neighbor-girl called to Ozzy. I was across the yard—too far away to control a potentially bad situation. “Wait.” I told Ozzy. He sat and looked back and forth between the tempting little girl and his demanding master. As I got close, close enough intervene if necessary, I quietly said, “Go ahead.”

Ozzy sprang from his difficult to maintain position and ran toward the squealing girl—I don’t know who enjoyed it more the toddler or Ozzy.

Being set free has its advantages.

Perhaps you’ve been in a literal prison. Maybe your prison isn’t obvious to the person next to you—but the figurative bars are stronger than any metal bars you can imagine. The past, the present, the secret the known—all of those things can lock the soul into a powerless cell.

Remember yesterday’s obituary— Trapped and Killed by Sin and the Law? Sin has a way of trapping every one of us. The one thing we all share is sin. Specifically, your sin may be different from mine but, without Christ, sin is a trap—a deadly trap. The “Law” only makes the bars of the trap stronger.

There are two words in that paragraph that change all the others—without Christ.

Christ came to make humanity free—free from the guilt of sin. Once the guilt is gone, the law loses its power. The law’s only power is guilt. If the law, if rules could change the human heart, we would have no need of a Savior.

We needed a Savior—the law wasn’t enough.

Jesus came.

Jesus came to set you free.

Jesus gives you permission to be free from the guilt of your past sin. The door to your cell flew open the moment you accepted Christ’s gift. You have His permission to leave the cell of your past and run freely into the grace His redemption offers.

You need not wait any longer—You’re FREE!

Father, thank You for the gracious gift of Your Son. Teach me to live in the freedom Jesus bought for me with His life. I will leave the trap of my past sin behind and live in Your freedom.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

I Ate Dirt

eating dirtSo, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God. Romans 7:4-6 (MSG)

It was before attending school, so I was very young. My mom recorded it in my baby book, so it’s not my imagination. I can’t tell you why I ate dirt. I remember doing it, I just don’t know what I was thinking when I did.  I will say I attribute my iron gut to eating dirt. Since I inoculated myself with all sorts of bacteria as a child, I have rarely had any sort of “stomach flu”.

I made a deal with myself when I began work in the OR. I was not going to become a germ freak. I lost. I can’t tell you the last time my whole hand touched a door knob outside my home. I have not used a drinking fountain in years. I have scolded sandwich shop workers for acting like those little plastic gloves make anything they touch clean when they try to take my money without removing the gloves. I often scold my husband for not observing the clean side/dirty side rule for the kitchen counter. I am very aware of germs. I try not to be too weird, but I have modified my behavior. In the OR we have all sorts of rules for where contaminated things can go and how to handle contaminated items. We don’t mix contaminated things with clean things. The whole notion of clean and contaminated has become such a routine, I don’t even think about it anymore.

That wasn’t the case when I was eating dirt. I just ate it without any thought. The evolution of my realization was this; I ate dirt when I was a kid, to, ICK! I ate dirt when I was a kid, and now, GAG!!! I ATE DIRT WHEN I WAS A KID!?!?!?   From a simple action, to understanding it was not a good idea to being completely grossed out. The difference? I know what’s in dirt. A bit of knowledge goes a long way.

In Romans 7 Paul writes about the law and sin. The law reminds me how inadequate I am. The law shines a light on my sin. When I look at the laws of God, I can see just how sinful I am. It’s a lot like coming to the realization that I ate dirt. I ate nasty, dirty, DIRT. That never grossed me out until I learned what was in dirt. That realization is what the law does. Is the law bad? No. Does it make me sin? No. The law simply puts on display how inadequate I am to fulfill its demand. The law requires perfection: there is no “sort of” following the rules, either I do or I don’t. The second I don’t, I’m a sinner, I’m a law breaker.

In the passage Romans 7:7-11, the tension between knowing the law and understanding that all the law can do is help me know my sin, is bad enough, but in the end, the result is death. I can’t keep the law, no matter how hard I try. The never-ending battle of doing what I don’t want to and not doing what I should ends in spiritual death.  Verses 10 and 11, graphically spell it out:

The Law was supposed to give me new life. Instead, it gave me death.  Sin found a way to trap me by working through the Law. Then sin killed me by using the Law. (NLV)

What a sad obituary: Trapped and Killed by Sin and the Law.

It would be sad if that was the end. Fortunately, there is Romans Chapter 8.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images